Goat Cheese Guru

How one enterprising cheese maker is working to get her handcrafted products into every fridge in America.

By Chip Brantley

Photography by Peter Frank Edwards

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belle chevre creamery goat cheeseOne of her first innovations was to introduce a line of breakfast spreads flavored with coffee, cinnamon, figs, and honey. She also created several variations on the traditional goat-cheese crottin or disc, including the Southern Belle (coated in bourbon-soaked pecans, sugar, and mint) and the Greek Kiss (wrapped in brined grape leaves). Lemon, chocolate, and pumpkin goat-cheese cheesecakes followed. Most recently, she’s been testing goat’s-milk gelato and yogurt, and she’s trying to develop a line of handmade snack packs (think upscale Lunchables).

Inevitably, some ideas don’t pan out. A plan to reconfigure an old ice-cream truck into a road-tripping goat-cheese-mobile stalled when the price on eBay hit five digits. No one liked a Moroccan-inspired cheese spread (honey, curry, and cranberries) that Malakasis loved, and an attempt to crowd-fund $100,000 for a new creamery fell short.

But cheese makers, of all people, know how to accept and learn from failure. Making goat cheese the way Malakasis does, on a small scale and in a nonfactory environment, can be a precarious enterprise. The process itself, which differs slightly from cheese to cheese and cheese maker to cheese maker, is simple enough—when it works. First, a starter culture is introduced to pasteurized milk to help it ripen. Next, rennet is added to coagulate the milk into curds, a process that can take a full day. The curd is then scooped or drained into cheesecloth bags, which sit for another day or so until the whey has drained off. What’s left in the bags is cheese, and after seasoning it, Belle Chevre’s crew of cheese makers shape each piece by hand before packaging it. But unseen bacterial forces make the outcome always uncertain, and this uncertainty adds a little risk to the work.

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